Weather

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One of the reasons we moved to Maine was because it had “weather.” No monotonous parade of days, one just like another. Instead, here we are treated to wildly careening weather moods, a bipolar medley, where an afternoon can seem to change seasons in just a few hours. These past weeks have been weather-filled, shaping our days around the world outside.

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We had too many days with low-ceiling clouds, reminding me of Anchorage winters, dark and gray. It’s my least favorite weather, making me feel a bit gray myself. Even the starlings looked a bit depressed.

img_0819Of course, being Maine, the gray didn’t last long.  The skies cleared, with brilliant sunrises, acting like rose-colored glasses on the morning.

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On winter solstice, the sunrise was particularly spectacular, with a light pillar, created by ice crystals in the air.

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It started smallish and very red.  Soon the pillar grew much taller and turned golden, with the ice making a partial rainbow over to the left.

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Then a jet, with its contrail, appeared to fly right through the pillar.  A nice way to mark the return of light.

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The clear days brought frigid temperatures.  Too cold for photographs. I tried in vain to get pictures of the cardinals, brilliant on the snow and all fluffed up red against the cold. But my fingers gave out before the camera-shy birds ventured close.

img_0909We had several heavy snow dumps, silencing and softening, challenging our snowblower, and making lace of our fence.

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One night brought a nor’easter, a stormy turmoil of warm Atlantic and cold polar winds, making the house creak and groan through the dark hours and leaving, mysteriously, caterpillars on the pristine morning snow.

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Where they came from, I don’t know. But some were still alive and crawling futilely across the frigid crust. Capp was fascinated. He may have eaten one. **Update** the caterpillar mystery was solved by arlingwoman.  They are Noctua pronuba, or winter cutworms–a nasty garden and agricultural pest.  Yuck.

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The snow was followed by rain, then a quick temperature plunge, which transformed twigs and berries into icy works of art.

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More gray days, more frigid days, and then–boom (the winds actually were somewhat booming) –today we had a January thaw. In Alaska, we called the warm southern winter-melting winds Chinooks. I don’t think the thawing winds have a specific name here, but they feel like Chinooks, transforming winter into a brief spring in a blink.

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My walk today was warm, blue and blustery overhead, mud-filled at feet level, and lichen-filled at eye level.

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Somehow the warm weather and sun seemed to make the lichens and moss pop with map-like landscapes and fractal faces.

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As we roll with the weather outside, we remain busy–too busy actually–with hunting for another dog, pup-training, quilting, spinning, tree and seed ordering, library volunteering, spring planning, snow-clearing, fire-wood gathering, cooking, and winter maintenance.  Maybe, just maybe, we will slow down for a month in February.

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50 thoughts on “Weather

  1. Beautiful photos capturing the glory of winter, Brenda. I have never before seen nor heard of a light pillar, what an extraordinary thing and to happen on the Solstice, how special is that? Capp has grown into a rather large lap dog, I think!

    • Thanks Eliza. Our sun rises over the ocean on the other side of the hills, which makes for interesting cloud, fog, and ice formations. We have only had the light pillars a couple of times since we moved here. They are really exquisite to watch. And, yes, it was a fitting opening to solstice. Capp is a lap dog extraordinaire. He is a leaner, a toucher, and a snuggler. It’s going to be interesting if he reaches 90 pounds.

      • Labs can get big! My neighbor has a very enthusiastic chocolate lab that runs at top speed at me – a 100# torpedo! She is so thrilled to see me (I’m flattered), but I can’t help but close my eyes and brace for impact. Thankfully, she stops just short and bounces and body wags until I ‘notice’ her. 🙂

  2. A light pillar! I have lived in Maine for nearly all of my 59 years, and I have never seen a light pillar. Lovely, lovely photos capturing the vagaries of weather in Maine. And, it’s always such a pleasure to see pictures of Capp, who is becoming quite the lap dog 😉

    • I suspect that ice crystals hang in the air over the ocean more often than over land and that’s why we are able to see the light pillars here occasionally. They are quite beautiful.
      The first time we met Capp, when he was just a wee pup, he climbed right into my lap. None of the other pups did. He captured my heart right then. And, even though we didn’t know which pup we were going to be getting, I secretly hoped it would be Capp. He has continued to be a lap hound. The chair in the photo rocks, and Capp loves to climb in George’s lap and have a good rock.

      • I see.As inland Mainer, it’s not a sight I’m apt to see. Capp was meant for you.What a buddy!

    • Thanks Derrick. This is our time of year for spectacular sunrises and icicles. I love to photograph the lichens and see the details more clearly with the camera.

    • The caterpillars have me stumped, too. I agree that they don’t look like tent caterpillars. I spent quite a bit of time trying to identify them, because I was curious, and because I wanted to see if they might be harmful to Capp (he did eat one). I thought I had identified it, only to find that it was not a North American caterpillar. I wanted to send photos to the state entomologist, but couldn’t find an email address, so I think I will give them a call. I’ll let you know what I find.

  3. I love seeing your beautiful photographs of snow and ice but they make me appreciate being here in the south! The photos of the light pillar were stunning. I’ve never seen that before. We had quite a few gray winter skies here but the sun has finally broken through and blue skies are back.

  4. Lovely photos!! I agree , it’s lovely to have such good change of seasons and Maine is so beautiful!! I miss the winters we had in Canada. We live in Cincinnati for our work and we love the people and our house etc. But the climate with long humid summers and mild winters is hard on us. So we are happy to travel around until we will find the perfect place to live when we can retire ;o) But I did enjoy waking up to your beautiful photos!! xo Johanna

    • Thank you Johanna. You should consider Maine for retirement! Close to Canada and four very distinct seasons. The weather here in summer is as beautiful as any place in the world, I think!

      • I have visited Maine many times and love it indeed. There so many nice places to live especially in America. Next to New England in general, we are also slightly in love with Colorado with the dry, sunny climate. Oh well, we have a few years to go ;o) xo

  5. Beautiful photos of your stunning skies and winter weather. I haven’t heard of a light pillar before – it must have been particularly striking falling on the date of the solstice. We’ve had plenty of grey days that are pretty grim here, too. The caterpillars are fascinating – I wonder why they surfaced in such cold weather and the moss and lichens are interesting, too. I love the photos of Capp in the snow and your last photo where he’s determined to make himself comfortable!

    • Thanks Wendy. I love winter solstice–knowing that it’s the tipping point to lengthening daylight. To have that sunrise, too, was very sweet. I am determined to try to figure out where those caterpillars came from. I’ve never seen anything like it before. There were lots of them scattered over the yard, some crawling about, some just lying there.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed our winter scenes–as I enjoy yours. You have more winter blooms, though. Not much color to be found here aside from the sky and a few birds.

    • Thanks Melissa. It’s been a good year so far! I called the state entomologist today about the caterpillars. He was intrigued and asked me to send photos so they can try to identify what they were. So, we’ll see.

  6. I’m so glad not to be experiencing your weather, but it is certainly beautiful and surprising. The caterpillars are quite a mystery. Goodness Cap has grown a LOT. The solstice dawn at the fence, the lichens, what a great bunch of photos. You just have to look to see beauty and mystery all around.

    • Our weather has been keeping us on our toes. After two very warm days, almost all of our snow has melted. It feels balmy. Capp weighs well over 50 pounds now and could get as big as 90 pounds. We’re enjoying lap time with him while we can. And, yes, a little looking around goes a long way in finding beauty and mystery–under our feet, above our heads, and right in front of our eyes.

  7. I was curious about the caterpillars and looked up the strange behavior. They are Noctua pronuba or yellow winged dart. Apparently they are an agricultural pest as well as a dog snack and they come from Europe…

    • You are brilliant. That is definitely what they are. But what a bummer. They are also called winter cutworms–as if we need cutworms all year long. At least I’ll know to be on the lookout for them in the spring to try to control them in the gardens. Yuck. Apparently they can travel in huge packs and devastate crops. Some dogs have eaten them in such great numbers that they become ill, but fortunately ingesting a few doesn’t seem to do any harm. Still, I’m not happy.

    • Yes, I agree completely–weather reminds me that I am alive–and lucky to be alive. It’s quite cold out today, but we are staying snug and warm, with our wood stove crackling and the sun pouring in the windows. Plus, the days are getting noticeably longer and there’s a very slight feel of spring in the light.

    • I hate walking on ice, too. Thank goodness for Yak Trax. Capp is growing fast, but I suspect he will remain puppy-like for quite a while yet. I had never seen anything like the winter caterpillars. I hope not to see them again!

  8. What stunning winter images, I really enjoyed them, especially the icicles, winter snow and the sunrise. Wow, never heard of a light pillar before, just love the shot with the dispersed rainbow. Loved seeing Capp, and ouch re the cutworms, never heard of them either. Good luck with the pup hunting, don’t slow down, we’ll miss out!xxx

    • Thanks Dina. The light pillar sunrise WITH a rainbow was an extraordinary accompaniment to our morning coffee drinking and computer time. In fact, I didn’t get much computer time in that morning! Capp is turning out to be a really special dog. We believe we have found another pup–a three year old yellow lab girl–but won’t be bringing her home for another month. Can’t wait!

  9. Even for Maine, this January’s weather has been quite a see-saw. It looks as though we are going to get at least two January thaws, with a possible ice storm in between. And then there was last week’s snow-eating winds and melting snow fog — more like March than January. I have no idea what your caterpillars are, but here is the link to send specimens to Clay Kirby at the University of Maine for ID: http://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/ipddl/submitting-insect-specimens/

    • The see-saw weather has made for glorious skies. After bright sun this morning, we moved into a gray overcast, but the end of the front was visible down south, with an almost serrated dark gray edge contrasting with golden skittering clouds along the horizon.
      Thanks for Clay Kirby’s contact information. I had called the state entomologist and sent photos when the mystery was solved fellow blogger Lisa (aka arlingwoman–love this blogger community) in the comments above. Unfortunately, the little crawlers are “winter” cutworms, quite destructive to gardens. Ugh.

    • We are fortunate in our sunrises–always different and often startlingly beautiful. The weather has been all over the place this winter, but trees are starting to bud up already. Still, your spring comes earlier than ours! I love being able to taste a bit of weather in all parts of the world through blogging.

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